Proofreading website content and other copy has to be one of the most monotonous tasks in the world. Repetitive, unimaginative, unrewarding (for most); it’s not a task most of us jump to, and certainly one we tend to rush.
Unfortunately proofreading isn’t a job you can skimp on, even if you don’t really care about spelling and grammar yourself. Your content directly affects your credibility, and flawed content indicates a lack of care and quality and can take away from your message. Grammar is really important to some people, so don’t let them make assumptions about your care, your passion and your intelligence for the want of a simple proofread.
This being said I like to spend as little time as possible proofreading, so I’ve discovered some ways to speed it up…
1. Do one big final spellcheck right at the end of your first draft…
Ignore the judgemental squiggly underline of the automatic spellcheck. Plough on to the end of your piece before running the check then you can correct all those typos in one go – much more efficient than doing it as you write.
2. …Followed by one big thesaurus check!
Wait until the end of your first draft then scan for words that don’t quite fit and ‘thesaurus’ them all in one go. This saves you from constantly stopping and starting every time you write a word that doesn’t quite feel right. I leave visual markers like highlighter or asterisks after any words I’m not happy with to come back to later.
3. Get someone else to read it
Sometimes you’re too close to your own work to spot mistakes. Getting someone else to look at it (preferably someone with good written language skills) has two big benefits: 1. It saves you time doing it, and 2. They’ll invariably give you a fresh perspective on your copy.
4. Print it out and go wild with a biro and highlighter
I can’t stand proofreading on a screen. When I have to proofread I always print out the piece and smother it in scribbles and highlighter. While technically it involves an extra step, this nearly always means I do a more thorough job first time around, meaning fewer rewrites and more time saved.
5. Put it aside and proofread it the next day
If your deadline isn’t imminent, put some mental space between you and the copy by focusing on something new for a while. This way when you return to the copy you’ll be reviewing it more like a reader would for the first time, so any mistakes will be far more obvious and quicker to spot.
6. Do an ‘all in one’ check for these common overlooked errors
- Wrong word (e.g. ‘staring’ instead of ‘starting’)
- Long sentences
- Dodgy grammar (apostrophes, their there they’re etc)
I find that reading the whole thing backwards is the fastest way to do this, and will particularly help you to notice if you’ve used the wrong word (spell checkers don’t pick this up).
When it comes to editing and proofreading copy, you can get it fast and get it right. Just focus on getting the bulk of the content drafted before you even think about editing it – and always engage a second pair of eyes if possible.